Last week our Twitter followers voted for Colin Coates as the first of the centre backs in our ‘Over the Turnstile Team of the Teenies’ and he joins up with former Crusaders teammate Billy Joe Burns as wells as Glentoran’s Marcus Kane and Elliot Morris.
Here’s our team line-up so far:-
Today we have the next four players we shortlisted, and as usual, the requirements we set is that each player must have played at least 50 games in the top flight in Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2019.
To some Paul Leeman may be something of a surprise choice on our shortlist considering he hung up his boots in 2015 but given how he managed to carry his form from previous years into the new decade with both Glentoran and Crusaders it felt difficult to leave him out.
Leeman signed for his boyhood club Glentoran in 1993 and made the first of 597 first-team appearances three years later, in doing so he became the fourth generation of his family to pull on the famous Glens shirt.
‘Leeper’ would eventually go onto captain the club and won the first of four league titles the 1998-99 season, the other three coming in 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2008-09. The centre back also picked up four Irish Cups, three Gold Cups, five League Cups and six County Antrim Shields in East Belfast, with his final League Cup medal coming in the 2009-10 season.
When Leeman left The Oval at the end of the 2010-11 season he certainly wouldn’t have been short of offers but eventually opted to link up with Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders team. If anyone thought that Leeman was over the hill they were very wrong as he clocked up over 100 appearances in his time at Seaview.
One of his first appearances in a Crusaders shirt was in the Europa League against a Fulham side managed by Martin Jol and other highlights in North Belfast were a League Cup final win over Coleraine, a penalty shootout Setanta Cup win against Derry City and he capped off his career in fine style with a final league winners medal in 2014-15.
A fine servant to football in Northern Ireland, Leeman is currently 3rd on the Glentoran Appearances List with Colin Nixon the only outfield player to have made more appearances, he was also named Ulster Player of the Year in 2004-05 and since retiring from playing has returned to both of his former clubs in coaching roles.
Another player whose contributions last decade may have been briefer than some others but nonetheless is still more than worthy of his place on our shortlist is former Cliftonville defender Marc Smyth.
Scottish born Smyth’s career consisted of spells with Ayr United, Partick Thistle and Greenock Morton before he was snapped up by Tommy Breslin in 2012 in what would prove to be an inspired bit of business for the Solitude club.
Smyth went onto become a huge player in the club that won back to back league titles in 2012-13 and 2013-14, we have already highlighted how consistent that Reds backline was throughout those campaigns.
The Scotsman also started in all four of the League Cup wins in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, establishing himself as a fans favourite and perhaps being vastly underrated by the wider league in that incredibly successful team.
Since his playing career has finished Smyth has returned to Solitude and fulfilled roles ranging from heading up the club’s youth academy to managing the U18’s side and also at one point last season stepped in to assist caretaker manager Michael Press with first-team duties following former manager Barry Gray’s departure.
Next up is current Crusaders defender and former Coleraine player, Howard Beverland. Beverland made his debut for the Bannsiders as a 17 year old under Marty Quinn and soon became a first team regular at The Coleraine Showgrounds, eventually making 319 appearances for the club and wearing the captain’s armband under Oran Kearney’s management.
Initially appearing in the side as a right-back, Beverland eventually made the switch into the heart of defence and hasn’t looked back. Unfortunately for the defender despite his own impressive performances on the pitch he hasn’t always been the most fortunate in terms of collecting medals in his career, firstly he missed out on the 2008 Irish Cup final for Coleraine due to injury and then was on the losing side in the 2011-12 League Cup final for the North Coast side against his current club.
Beverland’s performances would soon attract the attentions of other clubs and managers, including former Linfield manager David Jeffrey, but he remained loyal to Coleraine until the end of the 2015-16 season when he signed for Crusaders.
Beverland joined when the Crues had won the league for two consecutive seasons so the fact that he was on Stephen Baxter’s ‘shopping list’ tells you how big a performer the defender was for his former side.
Since signing on at Seaview the centre-back has slotted straight into the side and become a first team regular and his finally added some winners medals to his collection – he was part of the side the won the league in 2017-18 and also collected an Irish Cup winners medal last season, though he was an unused sub in the final. Beverland has also won two County Antrim Shield’s with Baxter’s sides and now needs just a League Cup winners medal to complete a full set of Northern Ireland’s domestic senior trophies.
Finally on our shortlist is former Glentoran and current Linfield player, Jimmy Callacher. Callacher started his career in East Belfast and rose through the ranks to become a first-team regular for the Glens and when they won the Irish Cup in the 2012-13 season he scored one of the goals in the 3-1 win over Cliftonville in the final.
Unfortunately, his career at The Oval ended on a bit of a sour note as with his contract coming to an end he stalled over signing a new one, despite the Glens believing terms had already been agreed and this led to the club releasing a statement saying the player would not play for the club again.
To the surprise of few, it was soon announced in early January 2014 that the centre back would join rivals Linfield at the end of the season when his contract expired but the clubs later reached an agreement for the player to join the Blues later that same month.
The defender had to wait until March 2014 to make his debut for David Jeffrey’s side but since then he hasn’t looked back and has made over 200 appearances for the club and has collected two league winners’ medals, an Irish Cup and a League Cup.
The defender has also captained the club since signing and won numerous personal accolades including the coveted Ulster Football of the Year award last season.
Now that you know the four options remember to vote on our Twitter page, @o_t_turnstile and join us later in the week as we move to the right-wing position.